Harassment policy recognizes 'unique workplace considerations while protecting staff'
Alberta has released a new policy to ensure a safe workplace environment for people working in politics.
The Respectful Workplace Policy includes detailed information on how to make a complaint, how investigations will be conducted, consequences for violation and definitions of various types of workplace harassment.
The policy was written by Jamie Pytel and Alex Matthews of Kingsgate Legal following an extensive review of existing HR policies at the request of the office of the Alberta premier.
“Political staff work in a dynamic and high-pressure environment,” says Pytel. “This policy recognizes these unique workplace considerations while protecting staff from harassment, including sexual harassment and discrimination. This policy is a positive step forward for people working in politics.”
Defining, investigating harassment
The policy defines workplace harassment as “objectionable or unwelcome conduct by a staff member, that the staff member knows or ought reasonably to know would harm or cause offence, humiliation, degradation, or embarrassment, or which generally causes a hostile, intimidating, or abusive work environment or otherwise adversely affects the health and safety of an employee”. This also involves bullying, it says.
However, workplace harassment does not include conduct and reasonable feedback relating to the management and performance of a staff member or the worksite.
Under the policy, the premier’s office will appropriately investigate any allegations of harassment, sexual harassment, discrimination and violence, and take corrective action to address these forms of misconduct.
Too often, people are afraid to speak up. One of the top reasons is safety concerns and fear of backlash from the perpetrator (33 per cent), according to a recent survey.
The Alberta policy also encourages workers to identify themselves when making complaints. While anonymous complaints are allowed, the ability to respond to such complaints may be negatively impacted by a lack of information and in some cases the complaint may be incapable of being investigated, according to the government.
Along with the updated policy, Premier Jason Kenney and all ministers have signed a statement confirming their commitment to a harassment-free workplace.
The executive council has also ensured that members of the Alberta public service, agencies, boards, commissions and the Legislative Assembly of Alberta completed anti-harassment workforce training.
The federal government brought in major new rules around workplace harassment that took effect in January 2021. In April this year, Ottawa launched the 2022 Call for Concepts for the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Fund, which aims to guide culture change around harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces.